Wizards, Capitals to Stay in DC as Virginia Move Falls Apart

Monumental Sports & Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis and Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser are reportedly finalizing a deal where the NHL’s Washington Capitals and NBA’s Wizards will remain at Capital One Arena through the year 2050. This news came within an hour after the city of Alexandria, Va., ended negotiations with MSE over the proposed Potomac Yard development that would have included a new arena for the two teams.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the city would pay $515 million over three years to modernize the arena and MSE would sign a new lease that would keep the teams there for 25 more years.

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The new deal also addresses concerns about the changing environment around the arena, located in D.C.’s Chinatown, the Post said. The city would keep a minimum number of police officers downtown.

In December, Leonsis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin made a handshake agreement to develop a $2.2 billion mixed-use development, which would have included a brand-new arena to house the two teams. Leonsis looked to Virginia just days after stalled negotiations with Bowser over financing upwards of $600 million in renovations to Capital One Arena, which opened as the MCI Center in 1997. Meanwhile, the Virginia deal needed much more than Youngkin’s blessing.

As reported by the Post, Youngkin had trouble rounding up support in the state’s General Assembly, especially after Democrats gained the majority in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate in the last election. While the governor got a bipartisan thumbs-up from an economic development commission of lawmakers before the December announcement, key members of that commission weren’t present, including L. Louise Lucas, a Democratic from Portsmouth who headed up the state senate’s finance and appropriations committee.

Lucas stood against the project, saying that it would be a giveaway to a billionaire and could jeopardize the state’s finances. In addition to never docketing the bill for voting, she also stripped language about the project from the state budget.

The city of Alexandria itself also took issue with the agreement, citing several concerns that the proposal did not include substantial improvements to existing public transportation, did not address the shortage of affordable housing, did not protect the city’s AAA rating and more. “We are disappointed negotiations did not result in a proposal that protected our financial interests and respected these community values,” said an official statement from the city government, led by mayor Justin Wilson.

On March 22, Brian Schwalb, the city’s attorney general, warned MSE that moving the Capitals and Wizards would violate MSE’s legal obligations to the district. He cited a 2007 agreement to publicly finance $50 million of improvements to Capital One Arena, stating that the city “expressly conditioned” the financing on the arena lease through 2047.

(The headline for this article has been updated.)

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